In Epirus, in the north west of Greece, you will find the region Zagori. In short its 46 stone villages in a magnificent landscape and just one hour drive from the city Ioannina. I grew up in Stockholm, in the middle of the city. Landscapes views and nature were not around the corner. It was usually up to date on summer holidays when we went to Greece. However the exception is my earliest childhood year when I lived with my grandparents in a small mountain village. As the years goes by I’m drawn to the mountains like a magnet and love the views of the those hilly landscapes…
Zagori means beyond the mountains, from the Slavic za “behind” and gore “mountain”. During the Ottoman era Zagori flourished and that is evident in the architecture of the houses, the unique bridges and monasteries. Kalderimi is the name of the cobblestone paved roads around the stone villages in Zagori. Most importantly they are designed for foot and hoofed traffic and tie together many of the villages in the region. Zagoria or Zagori or Zagorochoria (villages of Zagori) is divided into three regions, western, eastern and central Zagori. Here is the attractions you do not want to miss.
The villages you must visit here is Megalo Papingo and Mikro Papingo, its the villages in the photos above. We actually stayed here at Mikro Papigo hotel and from here you can start your hiking up to the mountain top of mountain Tymfi and reach the top Gamilla with an altitude of 2436m. Beside the mountains you have the famous lake Drakolimni on the way up and about 4,5 hours from Papingo. In between the two villages you will find the natural swimming pools of Rogovo. On your way to the village Aristi, stop at Aristi bridge and perhaps join the rafting groups for a pleasant rafting tour in the river of Voidomatis.
Above all the main attraction here is Vikos gorge, listed as the deepest gorge in the world by Guinness Book of Record. It begins between the villages of Monodendri and Koukouli and ends near the village Vikos. In addition village Monodendri has the most tourists as you have a spectacular view to Vikos gorge from this point. In the centre of the village you have Rizario Exhibition Culture Centre with nice handcraft and photography exhibitions. Central Zagori has the most famous stone bridges and monasteries in Zagori, don’t miss them if you are nearby. Villages like Dilofo, Kipoi are just some of the 20 villages in this section.
Consist of 16 villages which has the oldest villages in the area. Further this part of Zagori is for nature lovers, hikers, scouts and hunters. On your way up to the very east you find the villages Greveniti, Elatochori, Vouvousa and Perivoli among others. I have been to Vouvousa twice as its at least a few hours drive from Ioannina city. Above all nature lovers can enjoy the national forrest of Pindos and the river Aoos which flows through the village.
How to get here
You will reach Zagori with bus or car from Thessaloniki, its about three hours drive to the region. The nearest airport is located in Ioannina city, now with direct charter flights from Sweden. From Ioannina its thirty minutes drive to the villages Aristi or Dilofo, to reach the very east part of Zagori can take a few hours. The roads in Zagori are new but with a number of hairpin bends.